Back at university, I worked at bars, restaurants, and even nightclubs to help put me through school. And though the scenery and clientele have changed considerably, I am still using the skills I developed at those jobs to form relationships with customers to this day. Over the year, I’ve become deeply invested in my clients’ professional and personal lives. I’ve worked hard to forge a culture of mutual trust, respect, and kinship with these individuals. And in the end, we both get to reap the benefits of a strong, long-term relationship.
There’s an art to building relationships—it’s true—but I’ve discovered that art is based on many behavioral science practices. How you conduct yourself directly affects how strong or weak your connections are. The products, people, and processes here at Infostretch can stand up on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to wrap them up with a bow of exceptional customer service. So, without further ado, here are 6 behaviors I demonstrate to strengthen client relationships.
Watch and Listen – The great Alex Ferguson once said, “There’s a reason that God gave us two ears, two eyes and one mouth. It’s so you can listen and watch twice as much as you talk.” I believe that sentiment is absolutely vital to creating good client relationships. For the vast majority of people, their favorite topics of conversation are their own thoughts and experiences. I’ve found that by speaking less and listening more during conversations, clients are more satisfied with the discussion. Plus, I’m able to learn much more about my clients, their pain points, and their objectives by keeping my ears open and my mouth closed.
Be Adaptive – Finding common ground with your clients is key to making them feel comfortable. Understand your client’s background, personality, and experiences to find common ground. These similarities are great ways to break the ice and can be great conversation starters for future discussions. Leaning on the psychological approach of mirroring body language, speech patterns, and attitudes can also give you an advantage as you navigate interactions.
Agenda – While I let the clients do most of the talking, I make it a point to steer the conversation. Driving the agenda will ensure a productive and satisfactory discussion for both of us. I go into every meeting with key outcomes in mind for what I want out of the conversations. I do extensive research on the client and come prepared with questions, ideas, and suggestions. I make sure to extract key bits of information, too, like what the client’s pain points and goals are. Their responses to these questions are a perfect segue into how I can help. To wrap up, I always touch on any action items we discuss and/or next steps.
Regularity – The “mere-exposure effect” or “familiarity principle” describes the tendency of people to develop a preference for something simply because they are familiar with it. Based on this psychological phenomenon, I make a point to keep a regular cadence with my clients. This goes for professional meetings as well as out-of-the-office get-togethers.
Back in the old days before COVID, I used to go to the client sites once a week. I used to travel a lot and just drop in to say hello. The frequency of face-to-face meetings has since dropped off, but I continue to make it a priority whenever possible. And when it’s not possible, I make sure we get face time in over Zoom.
I stay on my clients’ social calendars, too. Going for drinks or getting together to watch sports is really important to developing a personal relationship with my clients. Solving problems on the clock will always be a priority, but the more time I can spend with a client having fun, the stronger our relationship will be.
Paul Moorhead and his team enjoying a night out go-karting with clients
Be Honest – Honesty is paramount to successful relationships, especially in the case of obstacles. It’s important to address problems with your client as soon as they arise, even if it means having a difficult conversation. Sweeping problems under the rug may save you face in the short term but can have compounding negative effects down the road.
Take responsibility for the problem and assure them swift action is being taken to rectify it. I also like to share action plans to prevent similar issues from happening again. It’s not always easy to admit faults but in my experience, clients appreciate transparency and will respect you for being honest.
Build a Friendship – At the end of the day, it’s impossible to accurately quantify the strength of customer relationships. Some folks may do it by ROI or by how many years they’ve worked with a client. Me? I say the closest we can get is by determining if that client and I have formed an authentic bond—that is when I know I’ve done my job right.